DAVOS (Switzerland): Asean regards China as a friend and not a threat, said Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
The Prime Minister said Asean had developed good relations with China through increased trade and economic relationships.
“We see China as a challenge, a friend in the neighbourhood,” he said to a question on Asean’s response to the rise of China and India.
He was speaking at the plenary session on Asean’s 40 Years: A New Future at the World Economic Forums annual meeting on Friday.
The session, moderated by Hong Kong’s Time International editor Michael J. Elliott, included panelists Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Jusuf Wanandi, senior fellow of Indonesia's Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
Abdullah said China was involved in the Asean process through various mechanisms in the grouping’s pursuit of engagement for peace, stability and security in the region.
Asean had done well in terms of its relationship with China, he said, adding that China’s prosperity was also due to its increasing trade with Asean countries.
On the possibility of China and India joining Asean, Abdullah said both already had lots of dealings with the grouping and such interaction had benefited all parties concerned.
The important question, he added, was not so much whether Asean needed China and India but whether they really needed the grouping.
Earlier, Arroyo paid tribute to Abdullah for playing a major role in facilitating the peace process and heading the ceasefire monitoring team in Mindanao.
Malaysia, she said, was leading a broad range of international organisations and nations to help keep the peace in Mindanao.
“I’m glad to have the (Malaysian) Prime Minister here on the same platform because this is one of our success stories in facing the most pressing challenge of terrorism.”
To a question on how the Mindanao model could be applied to address militancy in other parts of the Muslim world, she said a combination of soft and hard power could be applied in any situation.
Wanandi said the only way Asean could compete with China and India was by deepening its integration economically, politically and security-wise as well as socially.
He also suggested that Asean foreign ministers be actively involved in the implementation of the Asean charter instead of going through a middle-level bureaucratic high-level task force.